From science to liturgy: Dominican Sister Jeanne Wiest’s path through ministry

After nearly 40 years in religious life, Dominican Sister Jeanne Wiest, director of worship for the diocese of St. Cloud, recognizes not everyone understands what a vocation in religious life entails.

“I’ve been in places where people have never met a sister,” Sister Jeanne said.

When she was young, she, too, had minimal exposure to Catholic sisters.

“I only attended Catholic school for a few years. There was only a short time where I was taught by sisters,” she said.

But the impact of the women of the church who have been called to religious life is not hidden to her.

“Things sisters have done over the centuries are still enduring. Many started with so little and had the foresight to meet the needs of people years into the future,” she said.

“Looking at women in religious life is a way to recognize the women’s side of history. “

She made history herself by attending Eastern Michigan University to pursue a degree in exercise science.

Dominican Sister Jeanne Wiest serves as the Master of Ceremonies for the Rite of Election at St. Mary’s Cathedral Feb. 18. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“I was the first in my family to receive a college degree,” Sister Jeanne said.

Like many college students, she filled her days spending time with friends and her boyfriend, and with studying. She also played on the basketball and field hockey teams and even found time to play clarinet.

Still, Sister Jeanne felt called to something more and began visiting religious communities on weekends. She visited the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Adrian, Michigan, where she was welcomed to a reception where she was offered a selection of beer, wine, chips and cheese.

“This isn’t the Kool Aid and cake I had seen in other religious communities. Our time together was so different,” she recalled thinking as she first interacted with the community.

Now, as part of the Dominican Order since 1981, she proudly places the letters “OP” behind her name.

“This stands for ‘Order of Preachers.’ As Dominicans, we are called to preach the truth rooted in the Gospel, with our lives, not words alone,” she said.

Early in religious life, Sister Jeanne carried the Gospel message across the United States and internationally by sharing her expertise in science through teaching and coaching.

Sister Jeanne poses with newly ordained Father J.C. Duncan after the ordination Mass Dec. 9. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Later, she felt called to a change in ministry to work in liturgy.

“During my time teaching at Western Michigan University, I took time for spiritual direction, which help me recognize my call toward liturgy,” Sister Jeanne said.

Still working in this area today, she finds joy in the sharing the Gospel in different ways.

“I get to witness the moment when people feel called to participate in the Eucharist —praying instead of just watching,” she said. “When people participate in the liturgy, they get to experience a relationship with God through Jesus. They come to experience God’s great love for them.”

She knows that God may continue to call her to new challenges, so she continues her work keeping in mind those history-making sisters before her.

“We stand on the shoulders of our foremothers, and we are not done,” she said. “We need to read the signs of the times, recognize the needs in our people and respond to them.”

Pictured above: Dominican Sister Jeanne Wiest visits with Bishop Patrick Neary after the Rite of Election at St. Mary’s Cathedral Feb. 18. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)


Author: Amber Walling


Jeanne, great article about your faith journey and ways you have responded to God’s call. I’m sure many people will find inspiration in your faith-filled life of service in love.

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